Name of Object:

Manuscript Al-Nawadar al-Sultaniya wa al-Mahasin al-Yusufiya[Sovereign Rarities and Yusufi Merits]

Also known as:

The Biography of Salah al-Din



Holding Museum:

Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif

 About Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem

Date of Object:

Hegira 626 / AD 1228

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Black ink on paper.


Length 23.5 cm, width 16 cm, depth 4.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:





A manuscript written in naskhi (cursive)script which, due to the physical condition of the paper, is not entirely legible. It consists of 412 pages, each of which contains 15 lines. The pages are yellowing due to their extremely old age, and the effects of airborne moisture in the paper.
The author of the manuscript (Ibn Shaddad) joined the service of Salah al-Din Ayyubi (known as Saladin, r. AH 564–89 / AD 1169–93) who appointed him as an officer of his troops in Jerusalem. He remained a lieutenant to Saladin until his death, after which Ibn Shaddad headed to Aleppo where he built a madrasa. Next door to it he constructed a dar al-hadith (Hadith School). He settled in Aleppo until his death.
Ibn Shaddad divided his manuscript into three parts: the first section covers the birth of Saladin, his creativity, characteristics, attributes, morals and nature; the second focuses on the changes in his circumstances, his wars and conquests to the end of his life; and the third revolves around the names of the cities and citadels that Saladin conquered between AH 583–86 / AD 1187–90.
The author mentions that his contact with Saladin began in AH 584 / AD 1189 and he accompanied him until his death in AH 589 / AD 1193. Ibn Shaddad mentions that with regard to the history of events, some of which he was not eyewitness to, he depended on trusted sources. As for those events he did witness, he could describe what he saw himself. This biography is considered to be one of the most reliable references about him, thus historians rely on it for an accurate account of Saladin's life, especially in the final period of his life (AH 584–89 / AD 1189–93).
The author gives detailed descriptions of historical events and battles as well as details of the weapons that were used by the Islamic and Crusader armies. Furthermore, the author gives many descriptions of the social and administrative situations in Islamic and Crusader societies, showing that there was communication between the Ayyubid and Crusader states.

View Short Description

This is a biography of Sultan Salah al-Din Ayyubi (Saladin) written by his contemporary, Ibn Shaddad and examines his life, attributes, personality, wars and communication. This manuscript at al-Aqsa Mosque library is one of the best preserved and is accepted as the original copy scripted by the author himself.

Original Owner:

Baha’ Yusuf bin Rafi’, al-Shahir bi (known as Ibn Shaddad; d. AH 632 / AD 1234)

How date and origin were established:

The manuscript has a date recorded on it.

How provenance was established:

Jerusalem was narrowed down as the place of production based on what the manuscript says: that it was copied in Jerusalem and accepted as an authentic copy by the author.

Selected bibliography:

Conder, C. R., The Life of Saladin by Beha ad-Din, compared with the Original Arabic and Annotated, London, 1773.
Ibn Shaddad, Biha' al-Din, Y., (d. 632 / 1234), Nawadar al-Sultaniya wa al-Mahasin al-Yusufiya [Sovereign Rarities and Yusufi Merits], Cairo, 1964.
Maalouf, A., Crusades Through Arab Eyes, New York, 1985.
Salameh, K., Fahras Makhtutat Maktabat al-Masjid al-Aqsa [Catalogue of Manuscripts at the Library of al-Aqsa Mosque], Jerusalem, 1983.

Citation of this web page:

Khader Salameh "Manuscript Al-Nawadar al-Sultaniya wa al-Mahasin al-Yusufiya[Sovereign Rarities and Yusufi Merits]" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;pa;Mus01;4;en

Prepared by: Khader Salameh
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: PA 04